CFA assists SES with rooftop safety

Specialist CFA firefighters assisted storm-affected residents in the Dandenong Ranges. Urban Search and Rescue (Category 2), Rooftop safety with Chainsaw, and Impact Assessment teams were all deployed in response to the storm damage.

A joint CFA District 8 and 13 High Angle Rescue crew assisted a number of residents around the Dandenong Ranges with storm damage mitigation.  VICSES received a considerable number of requests for assistance during and following the storm on Sunday 9 October. To assist in fatigue management of VICSES members, a request was made for CFA to assist with the storm damage work on buildings. This is not the first time the crew has assisted VICSES for rooftop safety with chainsaw operations.

The three person crew made up from CFA career firefighters who have been trained in, VICSES and MFB Rooftop safety systems, and who also have chainsaw and tree access/rescue skills and qualifications were assigned a number of events to 'make safe', and prevent further damage.

"Whilst not the fire brigades' traditional role in emergency management, appropriately-qualified personnel from CFA HART were able to assist VICSES crews in working on roofs to remove trees and limit damage done by the storm. Highlighting again that CFA is not just bushfires and is part of the all-hazards, all-agencies approach to emergencies in Victoria," Station Officer Alec Draffin said.

Senior Station Officer Daryl Owen said, "This is our workplace and the same work conditions required for a carpenter, plumber or electrician should be applied, where they would require a system for the prevention of falls. The days of working at heights with no prevention from falls, for non-time critical events has passed and we must all keep up with other workplace requirements, or delay the work until a properly-trained and competent crew can make access".

Despite there being some legislative exemptions for emergency workers working at heights, we must ask ourselves the question "is what we are about to do...reasonable".

The crew worked until the early hours of the morning removing trees from the roof's of houses, repairing loose flashings and roof cladding to prevent further damage, loss or injury. 

Although significant electricity supply failures in the area, each building and metal roof structure was checked and monitored with non contact voltage detectors currently being evaluated as part of the low voltage fuse removal review.  Workplace safety is very important and we can not rely on assumptions for our safety.

This type of work is just part of the emergency response career fire fighters provide to the community and complements the work provided for this storm event such as Structural Collapse Rescue (USAR-2) and Impact Assessment.

CFA and MFB Impact Assessment teams were tasked with assessing the requests for assistance from the public and providing timely details on the work required. This provides a rapid snap shot of the outstanding work to enable prioritising the deployment of resources and to avoid the doubling up of work by attending events called in by a number of people.

The scale of these types of events such as floods, storms and bushfire's require a multi agency approach to ensure the appropriately skilled and competent people are supporting the community in their time of need.

Author: Daryl Owen